Calling the move a significant setback for the welfare of animals, The Humane Society of the United States criticized the Food and Drug Administration for moving closer towards approving the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring.
"American consumers are increasingly concerned about the treatment of animals raised and slaughtered for food," said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. "Although numerous studies have shown that animals in cloning research can and do suffer, no mention was made by FDA that the welfare of these animals or their surrogate mothers was given any consideration during the agency's deliberations."
Cloning Research Reveals Litany of Problems
A review of recent cloning research studies reveals that the animals involved suffered from a wide variety of maladies. High failure rates, including stillbirths and premature deaths, occur on a regular basis, and such abnormalities as intestinal blockages; diabetes; shortened tendons; deformed feet; weakened immune systems; dysfunctional hearts, brains, livers, and kidneys; respiratory distress; and circulatory problems are also common.
A 2003 review of cloning procedures in cattle found that less than 5 percent of all cloned embryos transferred into recipient cows survived, and a review published in 2005 confirmed that there has been no noticeable increase in efficiency. Surrogate mothers used in farm animal cloning research also suffer from reduced welfare from fetal overgrowth, repeated surgeries and injections, and pregnancy complications that have resulted in death. As recently as June 2005, an FDA representative stated that cloned animals were more likely to suffer birth defects and health problems when very young, demonstrating these problems have not been resolved.
Public Opinion Solidly Against Cloning
In a 2006 poll conducted by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of American consumers indicated that they are largely uncomfortable with animal cloning in general. Earlier public opinion polls found similar concern about cloning.
Unfortunately for consumers, the FDA may not require that labels specify when food items include the products of cloned animals and their offspring.
"The Humane Society of the United States supports scientific advancement, but cloning lacks any legitimate social value and decreases animal welfare," said Michael Greger, M.D., HSUS director of public health and animal agriculture. "With no regulations to protect farm animals in the United States during cloning research, sloppy science and animal suffering has become the norm."
Legal Petition Urged Moratorium, Review of Ethical Issues
In October 2006, The HSUS joined The Center for Food Safety and other organizations in petitioning the FDA to enact a moratorium on the introduction of food products from cloned animals and establish mandatory rules for pre-market food safety and environmental review of cloned foods. The petition also calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a federal review committee to advise the FDA on the ethical issues raised by animal cloning.
"A final decision to allow meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring into the food supply may result in a rush to be the first to market these products," said Greger. "It remains to be seen whether consumers will stomach the animal suffering that went into the development of cloned food."
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